●Abramovich to sell Chelsea after 19 years of ownership ●Russian says sale in best interests of the club ●Calls have grown for UK to sanction Abramovich ●Net sale proceeds will go to victims of war in Ukraine ●Abramovich says he won't ask for loans to be repaid
LONDON, March 2 Russian businessman Roman Abramovich said on Wednesday he would sell Chelsea Football Club, 19 years after buying it and setting the team on a path to sporting glory, and promised to donate money from the sale to help victims of the war in Ukraine.
Amid growing calls for Abramovich to be hit by sanctions after Russia's invasion of its neighbour, the metals magnate said in a statement that a sale was in the best interests of the reigning European and world soccer champions.
"In the current situation, I have therefore taken the decision to sell the club, as I believe this is in the best interest of the club, the fans, the employees, as well as the club's sponsors and partners," he said.
Abramovich said he would not ask for loans he has made to the Premier League club - reported to total 1.5 billion pounds ($2.0 billion) - to be repaid to him and the sale would not be fast-tracked.
He has told his aides to set up a charitable foundation which would receive all net proceeds from the sale.
"The foundation will be for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine," Abramovich said in a statement.
"This includes providing critical funds towards the urgent and immediate needs of victims, as well as supporting the long-term work of recovery."
Swiss business tycoon Hansjoerg Wyss told a newspaper that he was considering buying Chelsea from Abramovich who over the weekend said he was stepping back from running the club but made no mention of any plans to change its ownership.
"Abramovich is currently trying to sell all his villas in England. He also wants to get rid of Chelsea quickly now. I, along with three other people, received an offer on Tuesday to buy Chelsea from Abramovich,"